Crow goes off, a gravelgullet.
An exit wound beyond the pane.
What day? Fuck fuckmonday.
Fivefifteen a.m. Wrong time.
Unholy hour. Rollover, ah—
fellthatdamnedtree where crow
now Everests exhilarated as
Hillary. Here, radio goes off.
Gawd. Pop song’s off. Sloppy,
not in time or tune. My ears.
Brain’s gone off. Altered state.
Not quite sprung. Ungodly March.
Note to Nature: keep your sex
to a dull roar. SQUAWK! Right.
No sleep now. Stare at where
roof apparently is. Conjure
a silent reveal of stars. Far off.
Never spied a white pine up here.
But time was when monster-gods
appeared to ancestors, real as fact,
to restock the story banks with fear.
Grandfathers spoke of ghostmen
with snow-bitten skin, with eyes
of a queer light, and their vessels
lodged tight in the hardfloe.
Visions now, for those not flown
to less-cloistered lives, are as strange.
Red char’s turned white, meltwater
floods out the permafrost bridge,
while north-straying jays and robins
telltale an arrival, and a departure.
Another shard of icecap cracks,
tips and, now loose, strays south
to shrink from view, while I try to
imagine how this story might end –
pines with a future here, seeding new
tales to relay beneath the Aurora sphere.
That Summer in Paris
the streets sweltered, people
prostrated nude on the floor,
prayed for release from the heat
that seized them, off guard –
privacy thrown to an awol wind
they cast the nets of windows, doors
to snag even gossip of a breeze
in Haussmann’s suffocating dream
instead had to listen to each other
bicker, suck ice chips, dissolve
like desire in hell-fired beds,
sweat, shrivel in misery,
speak of death on the phone –
given no reprieve they listened
and listened to limestone walls
heat-seek air, pavement yield,
potted plants sag, Gallic tempers
on mercurial rise, the Seine drag
its sluggish wake to the sea –
listened till they could no longer
hear a final gasp mimic a sigh
or imagine the hush of a river
slipping unnoticed into ocean.
This sombre supplicant to the whims
of living, age, genetics, and weather,
this thin fortress, the stronghold of I,
is a tension network of sensation.
On ossified scaffold, it’s a flexible
wrapping we’re packaged inside.
A billboard, too, it instills, as ads do,
desire, a bid for a genome meet-and-greet.
At night, shifting across sleep’s dunes,
with luck it’s an oasis from strain.
Shield. Splash page. A porous balloon
loosed to time’s slow deflation, it sinks
to earth. In the border and creases of
its map, hints of where we’ve been appear,
and of where from here we might still go,
charting the trip to Terra incognita.
Itching to hitch a ride at Kaladar,
the old guy’s all gums and grin –
a portrait no one’s thought to paint.
He hovers at the road’s shoulder,
thumb out, dusty, trying again.
The cardinal splash of his cap
and suspenders flag his intentions
as sure as a sign would, and south
is the only direction on his map.
He blind-eyes the campers
who tail-wind the opposite way.
Leans instead into their turbulence,
a middle distance he’s set sight on,
away from blueberries, marshes,
the isolating fuss of visitors and
a fickleness that tricks them
into thinking they are at one with
this blasted nature. He’s moving on
before the hibernation sets in up here,
where earth’s a skim coat on rock,
roots creep varicose near the surface,
and shadows in a slippage
of daylight will soon enough
recoil and disappear.
Excerpted with permission from This Being by Ingrid Ruthig © 2016, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Ingrid Ruthig earned a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Toronto in the 1980s and practised the profession for more than a decade. Her work as a writer, editor, and artist (read the Numéro Cinq interview) has appeared widely, with poems published in The Best Canadian Poetry 2012, The Malahat Review, Descant, and many other publications across Canada and abroad. She is the author of the poem sequence & artist’s book Slipstream, the chapbook Synesthete II, and editor of The Essential Anne Wilkinson, Richard Outram: Essays on His Works, and a forthcoming volume on the work of David Helwig. Her poetry collection This Being was published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in March 2016. Ingrid lives near Toronto.